Recently my dear friend Rick Sincere passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. He was only sixty, so it was quite a blow for him to be taken from us before his time. There are many stories I could tell to describe the sort of person he was, but perhaps the best is that of how we met and the positive effect that had on my life.
I was raised by Great Society Democrats in Arlington, Virginia, a very left-leaning area where people tend to be extremely politically aware even from a young age. When I was a teenager I remember Lloyd Bentson’s devastating slam of Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice presidential debate, and the next day at school we were all talking about it like normal kids in a normal town would be talking about some amazing play in the Superbowl. And as one would expect in that sort of environment, as a young person I was very much a kneejerk social democrat.
However, in 1992, I had realized even as a naive nineteen year old that Bill Clinton was pretty crooked. But I certainly wasn’t going to vote for Bush, so prior to the election I decided to consider third party alternatives. One of those was the Libertarian Party, and while in true LP fashion they ended up sending me information several weeks after the election, I became curious about this strange little party with their unparalleled commitment to civil liberties and social tolerance — which I could see was far stronger than the Democrats’ — but their then-perplexing commitment to free market economics.
Eventually, I decided to go meet one of their candidates for the Virginia state legislature and ask them to explain what I then saw as the disconnect between their stands on social issues and fiscal ones. Fortunately for me, that candidate was Rick. He was the most friendly, civil, and conversational candidate I had ever met, and his breadth of knowledge was truly impressive. Even though I was approaching him at the Arlington County Fair, a public event where he probably should have done his best to meet as many passers-by as possible, he patiently answered all of my questions and gave me many new things to think about. And from that, I came around to his way of thinking, and ended up dropping everything to work tirelessly as his campaign’s communications director. It was the start of my lifelong interest in maximizing individual freedom, and I have Rick Sincere to thank for giving me that important part of who I am.
Afterwards, we remained friends for life. I didn’t always see him frequently, but whenever I did, it was as we’d just seen each other the day before. From time to time we would help each other on various outreach or business projects, and once when I discovered he had no Thanksgiving plans he joined me and my mom, where he was, of course, the most polite and fascinating dinner guest imaginable. One of our shared interests was current events in Sub-Saharan Africa, and for several years up to his death he edited a publication affiliated with my university, called Sub-Saharan Monitor, and unsurprisingly it was our best read feature. The last time I saw him was related to this, when he invited me to attend a reception he and a colleague held a few weeks ago for the visiting president of Guinea.
His memorial service was held at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington. D.C., and at first I thought it was pretty funny that his family and friends would gather to remember such a great libertarian in a place named for a tax collector. But then I realized that maybe it was rather appropriate, since just as Jesus was known to associate with anyone, so too was Rick always willing to have a friendly conversation even with people with whom he disagreed. In this he was a model of civility well worth celebrating, especially now, when his shining example stands in such contrast to the spirit of the times.
So farewell, Rick. I miss you already, and I will carry you in my heart forever.